Wednesday, February 28, 2007

What Do We Do With the Past?

The conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in Iraq today has similar (though not identical) parallels with what western Christianity wrestled with during the time of the Reformation. Sadly, as one reads the accounts in Foxe's Book of Martyrs and Martyr's Mirror, one cannot avoid the fact that there was a time when Christians persecuted Christians. There are still places where this takes place (e.g. Chiapas, Ethiopia), but such persecution is incredibly rare today and makes up only a tiny percentage of the persecution suffered by Christians. Even rarer are situations where Christians persecute those of other religions. As in the early church, Christians today are primarily the recipients of persecution, not the instigators. This is an undeniable fact that only those with a deep grudge against Christians would try to deny.

However, the dilemma that I face is what to do with the past. As a mission, do we continue to promote books like John Foxe's Book of Martyrs with its testimonies of how Protestants were martyred by Roman Catholics? What of the magnificent Martyrs Mirror with its wonderful stories of how Anabaptists refused to deny their convictions and were slaughtered by almost everyone else, including the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Reformed Churches? Do we sell Blood Of The Martyrs, Seed Of The Church which recounts testimonies of Catholic martyrs who were killed by Protestants?

As a mission committed to being nondenominational, these are difficult choices. For several years, we have sold Foxe's Book of Martyrs. Our US mission is coming out with a special edition of it in the spring and we had to decide whether to promote it ourselves. But in recent years especially, we have come under fire whenever we offer this book for sale, from both Catholic and Protestant readers of our newsletter. They suggest that we are selling a book that is anti-Catholic and that it is inappropriate for us to do so. In a similar vein, I would love to make Martyrs Mirror available to our readership. In many ways, it is a much superior book to Foxe's (and much bigger!). Baptists and Mennonites might like it but what will some of our Reformed, Catholic, and Lutheran friends say?

It is almost as if some Christians today would rather than we ignore and/or forget the mistakes of our past and pretend that they never happened; that Christians have, at times, acted rather contrary to the teachings of Christ. It is far more comfortable to only refer to the incidents of persecution today where Christians are the victims than to look back when terrible atrocities were wrongly done in the name of Christ.

Do we dishonour the sacrifices of those who died during those days with such historical neglect or selective reconstructionism? Or is this an unnecessary digging up of the dirt from the past? I am inclined to think the former, to make these books available and challenge my fellow brothers and sisters whose predecessors may have been persecutors to learn from the past, to be grateful that we have moved beyond it, to thank God for the faithfulness of those who suffered and died (even at the hands of our co-religionists) and to commit ourselves to the principles of religious freedom today.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

New Report Published on Religious Freedom in Vietnam

EFC Religious Liberty Commission Alert
:: February 27, 2007

The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada's Religious Liberty Commission (EFC RLC) today released a report detailing recent religious freedom developments in Vietnam.

Entitled "Gaining Traction? An Update on Religious Liberty Progress for Protestants in Vietnam," the 14-page document looks closely at developments in 2006, described as an important year in the struggle for religious liberty in Vietnam. Deemed by some as a ‘watershed year', progress was made by the Vietnamese government in response to considerable international pressure.

The EFC RLC report provides detailed information on developments in Vietnam to date, examining the motivation for, and likelihood of effective follow through on, three recent initiatives dealing with religion, including the registration and recognition of churches, particularly those of ethnic minorities.

"There have been some initiatives taken to improve the state of religious freedom in Vietnam," notes Glenn Penner, spokesperson for the EFC RLC. "However, questions remain as to whether Vietnam will continue its modest progress in religious freedom or revert to its former repression. This report takes a closer look at these issues, and provides key information about on-going persecution."

Read the report on the EFC website.


  • that there will be continuing and genuine progress of religious freedom in Vietnam as a result of these initiatives
  • for protection, encouragement and boldness for Vietnamese Christians who continue to suffer persecution
  • that the Vietnamese church will continue to grow and be strengthened in their hearts, minds, and bodies.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Teaching Mission to India---Empowering and Equipping the Saints

by Bernie Daniel, International Projects Manager (The Voice of the Martyrs)

A fascinating country in the southern Asia, India is the largest functioning democracy in the world. It is also one of the most religious countries on earth. As the second most populous nation, one in six of every human being is also an Indian. Economically, the country is growing at 9.2% which is second only to China's staggering 10% growth rate. The country has recently lunched glitzy ads in the international media hailing itself as a growing superpower under the catch phrases "Incredible India" and "India Shining". However, the story for Indian Christians has been far from the rosy picture India is trying to portray about itself.

Here at VOMC, we have been getting many heartbreaking reports of suffering and persecution facing our Christian brethren in India mainly perpetrated by Hindu extremist groups. These include killings, rape, severe beatings, and burning of churches and homes belonging to pastors and followers of the Lord. According to Mr. Glenn Penner, the CEO of VOMC, "the country with the worst types of persecution in 2006 in terms of the types of suffering and the number is India". This alarming trend seems to continue unabated in these early days of 2007. In the last few weeks, the majority of our reports in our Prayer and Persecution Alert have been coming from the land of India.

It was against this background that VOMC took the initiative in consultation with highly reputable partners, the All India Christian Council (AICC) and FARMS-India, to sponsor and conduct teaching conferences on the theology of persecution and discipleship to key church, para-church and lay leaders of the Indian Christian movement. The teaching seminars took place in Hyderabad and Chennai, India, on January 30 - February 8, 2007. The teaching was based on the book---In the Shadow of the Cross---written by Mr. Glenn Penner. This very important book is gaining wider acceptance as one of the most comprehensive writings on the theology of persecution and discipleship. The material was born out of a deep desire to prepare the church for and in persecution. I do strongly believe that the treasure in the book which God has entrusted Glenn is both timely and very important message to the Body of Christ around the world.

In these In the Shadow of the Cross Seminars at Hyderabad and Chennai, hundreds of pastors, church leaders, and other servants of the Lord from all over India attended the sessions. The teaching was well-received by the participants as insightful, timely and highly relevant for the church in India. A professor in two Bible colleges stated: "I have been studying and doing research on suffering and persecution for the last 25 years. This is by far the most comprehensive and insightful teaching I have seen." And a pastor who has been serving the Lord as a shepherd of a 5000 member congregation in northeast India added: "In all my years in the ministry, I have never been exposed to this kind of relevant and scriptural presentation on suffering and persecution". Many also remarked that the material was their first in-depth and biblical exposure to such an important teaching. To our God be all the glory!

Encouraging and empowering Christians to fulfill the Great Commission in areas of the world where they are persecuted is a cherished purpose of VOMC. The organization is blessed with a dedicated leadership with a deep commitment to serve the Persecuted Church around the world using various forms of aid. In a strategic sense, one of the important services we can extend to the suffering part of the Body of Christ is to edify it using this great teaching on suffering and persecution as a central aspect of true and biblical discipleship. In his book Faith that Endures, Ronald Boyd-MacMillan stated:

"Clearly, the best and deepest way to combat persecution is to make mature disciples of Christ. This is the work of the church, and it is struggling in its most basic task! Our job then is to help with this perennial priority" (p. 250).

Yes, the suffering church in India and around the world needs our help with its task to build committed Christians who are cross-carrying messengers of our cross-centered Gospel. It needs to clearly know that a careful study of Scripture reveals that the cross of both His Son - Jesus - and His sons and daughters - us - is central to the eternal plan of God in restoring the world to Himself. Indeed, it needs to know that suffering, persecution and death are not senseless. They are the very ways by which God accomplishes His purposes of spreading His message of love and grace in a fallen and sinful world. And its leaders need our support to carry out their responsibility to teach these truths to those who are under their care.

I am again grateful to the Lord for this great treasure and resource - In the Shadow of the Cross - God has placed in our hands. By God's enabling grace, Glenn has written this very insightful and important book primarily for church leaders of the Persecuted Church in the hope of helping equip them to minister more effectively to their congregations. The book is also very beneficial for all believers to gain a clearer understanding on suffering, and to leaders who provide pastoral care to those undergoing suffering of a more general nature.

Glenn had done a great job of teaching parts of the book in Sri-Lanka, Ethiopia, Colombia, Nicaragua, and here in Canada and the USA. Oh, how I really wanted for him to go with me to India. I had hoped to learn from his rich teaching experience and expertise of the subject, and share a small part of the teaching mission with him. But, as you may be all aware, with the health challenges our dear brother has been facing, that was not possible. So, it was very humbling for me to be assigned with the responsibility to teach the material to the precious saints in India. I was joined in the trip by our VOMC representative in Ethiopia, Brother Joshua, who did a great presentation on the prevailing persecution of Christians in Ethiopia. The presentation gave our Indian brethren a greater perspective on persecution and a sense of fellowship with other persecuted saints elsewhere.

In 2007, the leadership of VOMC is prayerfully considering possible opportunities of conducting these In the Shadow of the Cross Seminars. Please pray for wisdom, discernment, and resources to undertake this very important strategic task of serving the Persecuted Church. Please pray fervently for the complete restoration of the health of our precious leader, Mr. Glenn Penner. I am praying and hoping that he will be able to pick up more teaching responsibilities as the loving Father continues to restore his health. We have an important treasure to be shared with the Persecuted Church. And the courageous and committed saints who are being built and edified by the teaching are very grateful for it. At the end of the seminar in Hyderabad, a noted Christian leader from one of the most restrictive states in India, came to me with moistened eyes and said: "Please tell the writer of the book, and the saints in Canada who have supported in this venture how indebted we are to them. The suffering church in India says a heartfelt ‘Thank you' to them. Please pass our love and gratitude to them. All I can do is to pray for the Lord to richly repay them!" I am sure you will agree with me, when I took the liberty to respond to him saying: "I thank you on behalf of Glenn, and on behalf of the believers in Canada who care for the suffering part of the Body of Christ and support us. It is our privilege to serve you, as you are serving our Master, and suffering for the sake of Him."

Sunday, February 25, 2007

A Conversation with God

One of the highlights of my ministry with The Voice of the Martyrs to this point was the three fall semesters (2002-2005) when I taught at Oklahoma Wesleyan University. Only my added responsibilities at The Voice of the Martyrs in Canada (assuming the role of CEO this January) and my health compelled me to give it up last year. Who knows but that I might pick it up again some day (if they will have me back).

I felt honoured to get to know some of the students who took my courses during those three years quite well. One student that stands out to me is a young woman named Vanessa Fry. Hard working, intense, highly intelligent and teachable, I would hire her in a minute if Canadian immigration wouldn't make it so hard. When not working on her classes, she would work at UPS to make ends meet. I respected her dedication to her studies, though I worried about her workload and how tired she was at times. But she never failed to give me anything short of excellence.

I recently learned that Vanessa was injured on the job on February 5 when a 45 lb. box fell on her head. As she explained it to me, the box hit her right temple area and slammed the other side of her head against a metal support bar. In an email she sent to me today, she wrote:

"I now have post-concussion syndrome which means I am dizzy and my equilibrium is off, plus I have a splitting headache most of the time. In addition, I have had strange symptoms which involve my face and body. My face muscles sag and draw up, mostly on the right side of my face (on the side I got hit on) and sometimes my eyes are affected and I can't open them. On Tuesday of this week, most of my body muscles started to tremor and twitch, probably from erratic nerve signals. Then on Wednesday I had temporary paralysis in my whole body and difficulty breathing, which resulted in an ambulance ride to the ER (I had been twice already, once when it happened and another time when we were alarmed about my facial symptoms). The neurologist came in and tested me for a damaged occipital nerve in the right side of my head. It was positive, so he did a block on my nerve with Novocain. It took away some of the pains and seemed to stop most of the muscle tremors. The most logical explanation for the temporary paralysis on Wednesday was that my potassium level had tested lower than normal that night and the doctor said that if I had been experiencing any diarrhea or vomiting (which I had) a sudden drop in my potassium level could have been the reason. So, I am back home now and feeling much better but still very much not like my old self.

School is my main concern right now, because I am a senior and am set to graduate in May. But I am not really worried because I know God will work out all the details."

The reason I am mentioning this, is because early last week, Vanessa sent me and a few others a segment from her journal from the week before. I was so touched by what she wrote, that I asked if I could share it with others. However, I was unaware of what had happened to her and wanted to put the journal entry in context.. As you will read, Vanessa (like myself with my fight with cancer) is trying to apply lessons that she has learned from the Persecuted Church to her own situation that neither takes away from the reality of what they are suffering or elevating her own suffering to the level of martyrdom but simply affirms the same God is with His people to sustain them, regardless of their situation. I hope you will be as blessed by Vanessa's words as I was. And as proud of her.

"A Conversation with God" by Vanessa Fry (February 14, 2007)

What are you trying to teach me God? I know there is a reason for all this but right now my faith is not too strong. It's hard to say "God is good and kind and always right" when you can't walk on your own or have control over your own face and your head feels like it's about to explode. I want to be like the men and women in Hebrews 11 who followed Your agenda by complete faith. Like Noah who had faith despite unknown factors, Abraham who had faith despite impossibilities, and Moses and Joseph who had faith despite unpleasant circumstances.

It's easy to think that I don't deserve this trial because I deserve all good things in life not bad. But the truth is I don't deserve this trial because it is a gift from You and it is a sign of Your mercy that You care enough about me to teach me and mold me when I deserve nothing but eternal punishment. Help me to view this though God-centered vision. Have I been blind to Your agenda? Am I on the wrong path, out of Your Will?

I let go, I surrender all to You. All my plans, dreams for the future. Even if it means not graduating from college, even if it means the internship in Florida, even if it means North Korea. If I am not in Your will, if I am not doing everything for You, living every aspect of my life for You, I do not want to do it. When blinding pain shoots through my head, when my face sags and my eyes become uncontrollable, teach me and use me. When I stumble and other people have to catch me, God use it for Your glory somehow.

I weighed myself in the balance of Your righteousness and found myself wanting. Because I've talked about trials and afflictions and how we are supposed to view them and walk through them but now that I am in one what do I do? I whine, fret, complain, and have no faith. I worry about all my future plans and whether all my physical abilities will come back. Now You're reminding me that You hold my future and You know all the plans you have for me and that my physical and mental abilities are a gift from You and You have the right to choose how to use them. I have no rights; no say so in my life-it is You, only You. It is hard to write for the pain-God, please let this pain be for Your glory-show me how to display glory through pain. It has been granted-gifted-an honor shown to the Christian to suffer for Your sake. The Philippians were suffering under persecution in their time. But lots of people suffer and are persecuted-what is the difference? The difference is why we suffer and how we suffer-we suffer for Your sake and in a way that glorifies You and completes Your suffering by manifesting You to an unbelieving world. It is then an undeserved honor for me to suffer if I do it for Your sake by giving You glory and recognition through it. Let it be God, that I can count my trial as Paul did his imprisonment in Philippians 1:13 "that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel"

I also do not deserve Your everlasting love-that love that Romans 8:31-39 proves nothing can separate me from. What a great and glorious thought. That if You are for me in this trial, who can be against me? Can the ridicule and mockery I have feared be against me? Can even my stupid pride which You have displayed to me today be against me? No, because Christ is for me. You have shown me that even through a concussion and all of its aftereffects that I through you Jesus Christ-am more than a conqueror. More-because a conqueror just defeats the enemy-but I have more-I can triumph and glory in Christ. Why-because I know that nothing can ever separate me from You. Therefore, I will trust in You, I will follow You, I will let all of my assumptions and false dreams go, and I will live for You.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Reflections on a Funeral

I was cleaning out my briefcase this evening, a task long overdue. I am a bit of a clutter bug, collecting articles that I have torn (not cut) out of newspapers, jotting down ideas and thoughts on assorted scraps of paper and carrying around at least two books that I hope to read in my "spare time" (whatever that is!). Finally, when I get tired of the clutter and the weight of carrying around several pounds of paper that I never look at, I dump everything out and start again with a clean slate (which lasts about a week). But in the purging process, I do find the occasional valuable tidbit that I had forgotten about.

One such tidbit was an article from the Toronto Star dated October 8, 2006 concerning the funeral of Charles Carl Roberts whom, you may remember, stormed an Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania last fall and executed five young girls and wounded five more. The article noted that half of the 75 mourners on hand for the funeral of this man on October 7 in the small United Methodist Church were his Amish neighbours. The very people who had suffered so much only five days earlier at his hands, now exhibited Christ-like forgiveness in a clear and unmistakable manner, providing an example that I doubt many of us would question is worthy of imitation.

I contrast this with the response to the one that I see exhibited in other settings from time to time. Christians are senselessly murdered because of their faith and the call goes out to organize a protest on the streets. Christians march before the courts and government buildings, demanding justice with shouts, raised fists and placards. And even if the demonstration is peaceful (and, thankfully, most are), the faces of the protestors are marked with pent-up resentment and rage. Forgiveness is nowhere to be seen. And I wonder what bystanders must think and how it influences their perception of what motivates the followers of Jesus. Do we response to injustice any differently from the world who knows not neither the Father nor the One Whom the Father has sent?

I wonder what response reflects the Spirit of Jesus more decidedly; the quiet presence at the funeral or the noisy one on the streets? Perhaps both have their places. But which ought to be more typical?

Review of "The New Faces of Christianity"

As I mentioned last weekend, I have been reading Philip Jenkins' book, The New Faces of Christianity (Oxford University Press, 2006). It is a sequel of sorts to his earlier work, The Next Christendom as Jenkins expands on his earlier observations the growing, vibrant church of the South. He demonstrates further how the Church in the South (i.e. non-Western) is typically more conservative theologically, committed to the absolute authority of the Bible, open to supernatural manifestations, and persecuted. They also make up the majority of Christians in the world today!

None of this was particularly to me, as one who has traveled extensively on behalf of VOMC and with another mission prior to that. I also recognize from my discussions with church leaders around the world that they are troubled by developments in the Northern church, especially in regardless to sexuality (and homosexuality in particular), the role of women in the church, the authority of scripture, and a number of other issues. The fact is, the church in the South (Asia, Africa, and South America) are not creating a new Christendom (as Jenkins prior book labeled them); they are the defenders of the old one! It is we in the West who are abandoning the foundations of the faith. Frankly, I am greatly encouraged by the Church in the South, although we must not idolize it or think that it is without its problems. Those of us who minister there (and national church leader themselves) recognize this.

The most significant lesson I learned from The New Faces of Christianity, however, was the observation that Christians in the South (and in Africa particularly) identify powerfully with the world of the Bible; an agriculturally-based rural society marked by famine, poverty, plague and exile. As such, it is helpful to listen to their understanding of Biblical passages, as it often throughs light on what is probably the original intent of the passage (cf. my blog of February 17, Sowing With Tears for an example).

Overall, I found the book a worthwhile read, although I wish that he had made more references to the church in South America and Asia. The book draws heavily from African sources. This is fine but the rapid growth of the Church in South America would beg for further examination and comparison. Asia is dealt with better than South America but still not as thoroughly as Africa. As such, those wanting to serve the Lord in Africa would find this book especially helpful, whereas those ministering in South America would likely be disappointed.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Churches Increasingly Targeted in Sri Lankan Civil War

The following is a compelling report by Sarah Page with Kana Sivanantha received by VOMC this evening from Conpass Direct on the challenges and dangers being faced by our brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka during these days of renewed civil war. The Voice of the Martyrs has been working in Sri Lanka together with our partner The National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka for several years. The people of Sri Lanka are dear to here at the Canadian mission and it alarms us and breaks our hearts to see what is going on there. I realize that this report is a bit lengthy, but I urge you to read it carefully and prayerfully.

DUBLIN, February 20 (Compass Direct News) - Following a renewed outbreak of civil war between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), churches in the northeast are fast becoming another war casualty.

The LTTE has fought for an independent Tamil homeland in the northeast since the 1980s. While both parties to the conflict say they are committed to a 2002 ceasefire agreement, analysts say the current situation is more like an "undeclared war."

Since hostilities resumed in earnest last year, churches on the Jaffna Peninsula have provided shelter to hundreds of internally displaced people (IDPs), prompting retaliatory raids by the Sri Lankan army.

"One wonders if the attacks on churches are just a coincidence, or an attempt by the government to warn the clergy not to give protection to these defenseless people," one source, who preferred to remain anonymous, told Compass.

The same source said those speaking out for IDPs were often silenced by intimidation or "elimination," often in the form of unexplained disappearances.

"The church, unable to remain a silent witness, has raised its concerns with the outside world," the source added. "The government of Sri Lanka has taken note and appears to have sought, directly and indirectly, to silence these voices by abducting and sometimes eliminating church officials."

Deaths and Disappearances

Just over a month ago, on January 13, members of the Sri Lankan security forces gunned down the Rev. Nallathamby Gnanaseelan.

Gnanaseelan, 38 years old and father to four young children, led the Tamil Mission Church in Jaffna.

On the morning he was killed, Gnanaseelan had dropped his wife and daughter at a local hospital and headed towards his church, where members had gathered for prayer. Before he could reach the church, however, he was shot in the stomach and head. His Bible, bag, identity card and motorbike were taken, and he was left lying in the street.

Security forces initially said Gnanaseelan was shot for carrying explosives but later said he was shot for not stopping when ordered to do so. Local Christians say the initial accusation was a deliberate attempt to frame the minister, who was a respected member of the National Christian Evangelical Alliance Clergy Fellowship in Jaffna and was not involved in any political activity.

The Rev. Father Thiruchchelvan Nihal Jim Brown (commonly known as Fr. Jim Brown) and his assistant, Wenceslaus Vinces Vimalathas, may have met a similar fate. Both men disappeared on August 20, 2006, according to local media reports.

Witnesses said they saw the two men in the village of Allaipiddy, on Kayts Island off the Jaffna Peninsula, at about 2:15 p.m. on August 20, being followed from the Allaipiddy navy checkpoint by six armed men on motorbikes. Neither man has been seen since.

Navy commanders denied arresting the two men.

Brown and Vimalathas had gone to visit Brown's church in the parish of St. Philip Neri. The church and predominantly Catholic neighborhood were abandoned a week earlier, after the church was shelled on August 13.

A firefight had broken out on August 13 between navy officers and the LTTE in Allaipiddy, leaving 15 civilians dead and at least 54 injured in the crossfire. Many villagers sought shelter at the church of St. Philip Neri. When the fighting died down, Brown helped about 800 people move to St. Mary's church in the nearby town of Kayts. Some witnesses said he got down on his knees at the checkpoint to request a safe transfer.

Shortly afterwards, according to an Amnesty International report, the commanding officer of the navy in Allaipiddy scolded Brown and accused him of helping the Tigers to build bunkers. Brown, however, said the church members had dug bunkers to protect themselves from the shelling and bombing of church premises.

Brown had replaced another priest, Father Amal Raj, who sought transfer from St. Philip Neri's after the May 13 murder of a Catholic family in the village. Naval officers threatened Raj with death after he protested the shootings.

Security forces had previously attacked Alaipiddy and two other Catholic-majority villages, Vankalai and Pesalai, on June 17, 2006. During the attack, a grenade was thrown into Our Lady of Victory Church in Pesalai, where 200 people had taken shelter - killing one person and injuring 47.

"We were all inside the church when the navy and army broke in and opened fire. A grenade was thrown in through a window," Mariyadas Loggu told the Associated Press.

Civilians often take shelter in churches, viewing them as safe havens; in some villages, residents who are fearful of air raids sleep every night at the local Catholic church.

Catholic priests elsewhere on the Jaffna Peninsula have confirmed the deaths of many civilians through aerial bombing, shelling, shooting and crossfire - much of it carried out by Sri Lankan security forces.

Civilians are targeted by both army and Tiger rebels - with soldiers arresting and interrogating hundreds, while Tiger rebels have tortured and killed whole families suspected of siding with government forces.

By September 2006, more than 200,000 people had been displaced in the northeast, with homes, schools and places of worship destroyed indiscriminately.

Blurred Lines

Church officials have also complained about government blockades on the Jaffna Peninsula, cutting off vital food and medical supplies to civilians who are affected by, but not involved in the conflict.

"In a civil war, the lines are blurred indeed," Godfrey Yogarajah, president of the National Christian Evangelical Fellowship of Sri Lanka (NCEASL), told Compass. He pointed out that religious liberty issues are intrinsically linked to the general climate of human rights abuse.

The NCEASL has called for urgent United Nations intervention.

"Thousands of people are being arbitrarily arrested, tortured or ill-treated," NCEASL declared in a recent statement. "We call upon the international community to raise their voices and prevent the massacre of the innocents in this country. The establishing of a United Nations human rights monitoring mission in Sri Lanka is an urgent need. The world cannot stand by and watch as this situation deteriorates, while every day, people pay with their lives."

Attacks on churches are not new to Sri Lanka. Since 2002, large mobs - often led by Buddhist monks - have led a string of attacks on churches in the south. Buddhist clergy have also campaigned for a national anti-conversion law, modeled on similar laws in India, to restrict the growth of Christian churches.

Two separate anti-conversion bills are still making their way through Parliament, although the renewal of civil war has brought a temporary halt to the campaign. (See Compass Direct News, "Anti-Conversion Bill Revived in Parliament," April 26, 2006.)

Monday, February 19, 2007

EH.MEN2U. Would This Offend You?

Last week, friends of my wife and mine applied for a personalized license plate with the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO). You know those kinds of plates, sometimes called vanity plates; the ones that most of the time, you have no idea what the owner of the car is trying to communicate?

Gary and Patti Sullivan applied for a place that read EH.MEN2U translating to "Amen to you." Pretty inoffensive, eh? They wanted to have a plate on their Honda that would be a statement to their Christian faith with a clever Canadian twist (eh??). Certainly, I know that Gary, a real estate agent here in Mississauga, would be careful not to deliberately offend any of his clients with anything too overtly religious. It seems to me that he struck a good balance here.

Well, the MTO rejected their application. In a letter to the Sullivans from the MTO's Licence Renewals Unit, supervisor of licensing Sandi Wood said the plate was rejected because the government cannot issue a plate with words or slogans that the public would consider "offensive or inappropriate." The letter stated, "The Ministry's concern, in your particular case, is that the plate would be considered by some members of the public to have a religious connotation," the letter stated. Earlier in the letter, Wood wrote that the Ministry has a difficult task determining what's considered offensive and inappropriate because, many times, it's entirely up to the individual. "However, a decision has to be made one way or the other," she stated. "Therefore, we can only hope for the understanding and cooperation of either the requester or the public at large, depending on the decision made."

This is goofy, political-correctness taken to extreme, in my opinion. I cannot imagine anyone being offended by such a message. And if so, then it seems to me that they seriously need to get a life.

While this is a relatively minor (and even a little humorous) example, this is, in my opinion, yet another example of the growing push to privatize religion in this country, especially Christianity. It is also an example of the growing tendency of bureaucrats, politicians, and civil servants to try to control facets of our life that they have no business getting involved in. These self-appointed guardians of society are so obsessed that someone, somewhere might possibly be offended by something said however benignly, that they are increasingly seeking to impose a type of Orwellian-Lite speech control on us. It seems to escape them that perhaps Ontarians aren't as sensitive as they fear. Perhaps they should try treating us like thinking adults who are used to living in a multicultural society where we get all kinds of messages from all sorts of perspectives everyday. I mean, Pete's sake, if the MTO want to rid the road of offensive vanity plates, maybe they should reject the ones that make absolutely no sense except to the owner.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Sowing With Tears

Psalm 126 (ESV)
A Song of Ascents.

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
When our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
"The Lord has done great things for them."
The Lord has done great things for us;
we are glad.
Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like streams in the Negeb!
Those who sow in tears
shall reap with shouts of joy!
He who goes out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
bringing his sheaves with him.

On Friday I was working on the feature article of our April newsletter which will feature the testimonies of several Ethiopian Christians who have faced tremendous persecution since coming to the Lord. The faithfulness in the face of suffering exhibited by Ethiopian Christians never fails to inspire me. This is likely because a number of years ago, Ethiopia was the first country which I opened up for The Voice of the Martyrs. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the family of God there.

Like testimonies of converts in many restricted and hostile nations, their testimonies, while unique in details, often share common themes.

1. They realize their need for Christ and someone leads them to faith in Him.
2. They experience the joy that comes from knowing Christ and often start sharing their faith with others. As a result, they suffer persecution.
3. They begin a life of faithfulness despite opposition and suffering for His sake.

As we read Psalm 126, these same three themes are evident in the lives of the Israelites as they returned from exile in Babylon.

1. When delivered, they were full of joy for the great things that God had done in their lives (verses 1-3).
2. However, upon their return to Judah, they experienced the hardships that came from returning to a land left desolate (verse 4)
3. They begin the hard, even painful and tearful process of living faithfully, trusting God with the results (verse 5,6).

Philip Jenkins in his new book, The New Faces of Christianity, describes how he was discussing this psalm with some West Africans who were from an agricultural society not unlike the biblical one in which this psalm was originally written. They pointed out that the psalm must have been written when times were very hard and food short, a situation which these West Africans could identify with. They pointed out that the people "would have been desperately tempted to eat their seed corn but resisted the temptation because they knew that, if they did that, they would have nothing to eat" (The New Faces of Christianity, Oxford University Press, 2006: 73). Jenkins quotes a traveler to the Middle East in the 1850's, W.M. Thomson, who witnessed this in his observations: "In seasons of great scarcity, the poor peasants part in sorrow with every measure of precious seed cast into the ground. It is like taking bread out of the months of their children; and in such times many bitter tears are actually shed over it" (ibid).

During my travels in Sudan, I saw how in times of desperation, the people sometimes actually did eat their seed grain, leaving them destitute and on the verge of famine in the months that followed when no harvest was taken up. We can criticize them for their short-sightedness but I can only imagine the struggle that a father or mother would face at that time and in such a situation. Knowing that food was in short supply, the decision to take the seed grain and to put it in the ground, not knowing if you will be actually be able to harvest a crop, must seem to be a overwhelming risk. Will the weather cooperate? Will enemies drive you from the land? What about other natural disasters such as locusts, disease, hail, or fire? Any one of these things would render the act of planting not only a complete waste of time and seed but likely guarantee starvation for your family.

The call of Psalm 126:5-6 is to do the right thing, even when it seems to be foolish or a tremendous risk, trusting God for the results. In the book of Malachi, we read of how the exiles were so concerned about getting their own lives set up and their own personal needs met, that they were neglecting to show God the honour that He was due. They were neglecting to give Him his tithe and complained about having to provide burnt offerings. The animals that they did provide were those that were inferior; sick, lame. At the root of the problem was the attitude, "We are too poor. We can't afford to give to God the honour that He is due. We can't afford to obey Him." Malachi's (and the Psalmist's) response is, "You can't afford not to. By not trusting God, you are putting yourself in the position where He will deliberately withhold His blessing from you. Stop living only for the present. Trust God and do what is right, even if it may appear to be far too risky from a strictly human perspective. And watch; God will show Himself faithful."

This is the testimony of many persecuted Christians around the world. When they live faithfully, even when it means taking tremendous risks for the Lord, they experience the resulting joy and blessing. These blessings may not always be material but they are real and they are received with gratitude and praise.

One last thing to remember about sowing seeds and harvesting; it is a never ending process. Every spring, the challenge to trust, despite an uncertain future, looms anew. The life of faith is just that; a life. It is a life of trusting God in a world hostile to Him and His people. Often it is a call to a hard, even painful and tearful, process of living faithfully and trusting God with the results.

Latest Health Update

I know that many readers of this blog have closely followed my progress through my stem call transplant last December and faithfully prayed for my family and me since. We are so grateful. It has been a couple of weeks since I gave my last update and so I thought that I would write a few words and let you know how I have been doing on that front.

For the last two weeks I have been going into the office for three days and have really enjoyed being "back in the saddle" so to speak. I had missed my colleagues and love the ministry that God has entrusted to me. I have been feeling well but being careful not to push too hard. Still, I feel stronger each week and am amazed when I look back and remember how I used not to be able to do things like walk up stairs without taking a break, get up suddenly, read anything of any depth or take a stroll around the office without having to rest. These things are old hat now.

Still, I am not out of the woods by any means. In the last couple of days, the Graft-versus-host Disease (GVH) that was only a minor inconvenience has blossomed into something that now covers almost all of my body. For those of you who are not familiar with GVH (and I would assume that that would be most everyone) Graft-versus-host disease is a common complication of allogeneic bone marrow transplantation in which functional immune cells in the transplanted marrow recognize the recipient as "foreign" and mount an immunologic attack (to quote Wikipedia). Starting a few days ago, my lips and tongue swelled up and cracked, making eating rather painful. Then a couple days ago, the rash that I had had on my legs spread to the rest of my body. Then this morning, my eyelids were so swollen that I could barely see out. I actually looked like an alien from Star Trek. The swelling has subsided some as the day goes on, but my entire face is puffy. My hands and feet have also swollen up and are covered with red blotches. In short, I would win no beauty contest right now. Thankfully, I am not experiencing any itchiness (which sometimes accompanies GVH). I hope that this continues.

GVH is actually a good sign as it shows that my brother's stem cells are trying to graft with mine, but the doctors don't want it to get out of hand. As such, I have been prescribed 125 mg of prednisone every day which I know, for past experience, will make my hyperactive, hungry and aggressive. Pray that I don't drive everyone around me crazy!

Well, that's the latest. Thanks again for your prayers. Your support has meant far more than you can imagine.

Friday, February 16, 2007

VOMC's Educational Ministry Expands

One of the more rewarding developments for me personally here at The Voice of the Martyrs is to see how God has raised up a man who will be able to help me in our Via Crucis ministry and, in particular, in teaching our biblical theology of persecution and discipleship seminars (which we are thinking of calling In the Shadow of the Cross Seminars). Bernie Daniel joined VOMC last fall after having served from many years with Campus Crusade for Christ. An experienced teacher and former church leader in Eritrea, Bernie is not only a highly qualified teacher, but one of the most joyful believers I have ever met. His love for the Lord and for His people is contagious.

With my own health declining over the last year, and the demand for this training increasing, Bernie's joining us was providential. Last month, he traveled to India where he conducted 3-day seminars in Chennai and Heyderabad to hundreds of church leaders from across the subcontinent. The response was reported to have been terrific.

Of course, I am hoping that I will be able to pick up more teaching responsibilities later in the year, as the Lord continues to restore my health. But having another team member who can take this essential message to the Persecuted Church will only be a double blessing. I had been concerned for some time that, should something happen to me, the work that I have done on this subject would end up collecting dust. With the addition of Bernie to the staff, this is far less likely to occur. Like me, he also has a passion to see others take this teaching and pass it on to others. To facilitate this, he is working on a study guide for my book, In the Shadow of the Cross. And in his "spare" time, he is translating my book into Tigrinya for use in a shortwave radio broadcast into Eritrea and in hopes of eventually having the book printed for our brothers and sisters in this oppressed nation.

Pray for us as we prayerfully consider possible teaching opportunities for our In the Shadow of the Cross Seminars in 2007. We want to be sure that God leads us to leaders who have the ability and influence to equip others to stand firm in the face of persecution. There are some intriguing possibilities opening up. The response that we have received to our seminars has been overwhelming, with persecuted church leaders (some having been in ministry for many years) saying that they had never received teaching like this before. I believe that we have a timely message for God's Church around the world. Pray that the right doors will open to us and that we will be prepared to walk through them.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Theology of Persecution and Discipleship Course at Toronto Baptist Seminary This June

I am very excited to announce that I will be teaching at Toronto Baptist Seminary this June for the first time. Last August I was scheduled to teach there but ended up being hospitalized at the last minute. I was very disappointed by this setback, but the seminary has graciously invited me back and so from June 4-8, 2007 (8:30 - 4:30 p.m.), I will teach "MISS 323 - A Biblical Theology of Persecution & Discipleship" as a 3 credit hour course.

The focus of this course is an examination of the biblical teaching on persecution as a central aspect of Christian discipleship, providing a biblical foundation from which to articulate an understanding of God's perspective on these issues and to evaluate historical and contemporary perspectives. I take the students from Genesis to Revelation with the goal of training cross-bearing disciples for the 21st century. This course (or elements of it) has been taught in countries around the world including Sri Lanka, India, Sudan, Ethiopia, the United Kingdom and the United States. It has become clear to me that this was basic teaching for 1st century believers and is just as relevant for anyone who wants to be involved in fulfilling the purposes of God in the world today.

It's not too soon to start planning for the summer. If you are interested in taking this course for either credit or audit, I would encourage you to call the Registrar's office at Toronto Baptist Seminary at (416) 925-3263 or email

The First Freedom

In last week's Persecution and Prayer Alert, in response to a marriage commissioner in Regina, Saskatchewan facing a human rights tribunal for refusing to perform the marriage of a homosexual couple in 2005, I commented that since same-sex couples have been given the right to marry in Canada, sexual orientation is being treated as a more fundamental right than religious belief.

In today's National Post, Father Raymond J. De Souza makes a similar point, albeit far more effectively in his column "Freedom number one" as he discusses this development in the context of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Freedom number one
Father Raymond J. De Souza, National Post
Published: Thursday, February 15, 2007

What is the most important freedom protected in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? We could start with the first one listed: "freedom of conscience and religion." This week's series on the 25th anniversary of the Charter has addressed at length equality rights, which have dominated Charter jurisprudence, but what about the first freedom?

Religious liberty and freedom of conscience is not the first freedom by accident. The first article of the Magna Carta in 1215 guarantees "that the English Church shall be free, and shall have its rights undiminished, and its liberties unimpaired." The first amendment of the American Bill of Rights (1789) states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) speaks of human beings "endowed with reason and conscience" (Article 18 specifies the consequences for religious liberty).

In contrast, the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen (1789) gives rather short shrift to religious liberty, which may not be surprising for a document which states: "The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation. No body nor individual may exercise any authority which does not proceed directly from the nation." The almost immediate descent of the revolution into vicious religious persecution more or less follows from such a totalitarian principle.

But the lamentable French Revolution aside, the long history of freedom recognizes that the first freedom must be religious liberty. If the citizen is not free in his conscience, where else can he be free? If he is not free to pledge his allegiance, as he understands it, to God before the state, then what possible limits can there be on the state? That's why freedom of conscience and religion are the Charter's first freedom.

How has the Charter been used in the intervening 25 years to protect such freedom? The record has not been encouraging. In general, the courts have been more sympathetic to either equality claims or public policy goals rather than defending religious minorities. The trend regarding censorship is also worrying: The courts have been very deferential to government-imposed limits on free speech.

There have been in the last five years a number of clear-cut religious liberty cases that have ended up in the various provincial human rights tribunals. The proximate issue has usually been homosexuality, and the human rights tribunals have been inclined to limit religious liberty in favour of an emphasis on putative equality claims instead. Eventually, these cases will emerge from the shadowy legal world of the human rights tribunals and be litigated as Charter cases in the courts themselves.

It will pose a significant challenge to Charter jurisprudence. The tendency of the courts to favour equality claims over fundamental freedoms would seem to indicate that religious liberty would not fare well. That would likely be the outcome if the rights of Christians were at issue; but the issue would be complicated if religious minorities -- Muslims or Sikhs for example -- were to make claims on both religious liberty and equality grounds.

As the vast apparatus of the Canadian state moves in certain respects toward enforcing a secular orthodoxy, infringements on religious liberty are sure to become more, not less, frequent. This has already happened in education, as students and parents often find themselves confronted in the classroom with moral teachings contrary to their religious beliefs. To date, accommodations have generally been worked out, but as secularist bureaucrats become more zealous, these cases too will soon head to court on religious liberty grounds.

The churches --and mosques and temples -- themselves will likely go to court to test religious liberty claims, as their involvement in health care and social services increasingly encounter state mandates which violate religious freedom. The case of Revenue Canada hassling Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary during the last federal election was unique in its directness, but there will be many other less direct attempts by the bureaucratic state to encroach upon religious freedom. The purpose of the Charter is to prevent just that. The question for the next 25 years is whether it will.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The New Faces of Christianity and the Need for Ministry Preparation

I am presently ready Philip Jenkins latest book, The New Faces of Christianity which is a sequel of sorts to his earlier work, The Next Christendom. Jenkins expands on his earlier observations on how the growing, vibrant church of the South (as he calls it) is theologically conservative and Bible-based. Christians in much of the developing world really do take the Bible seriously and cannot understand how we in the West can justify embracing beliefs and practices that the Bible would seem to be against and which Bible-believing Christians have never embraced prior to the 20th century.

I will have to withhold my comments more until I have finished the book, but I can already tell that this will be an invaluable resource for anyone who works with persecuted Christians in the non-Western world. I believe that it is essential that we understand our brothers and sisters culturally and theologically if we are going to minister effectively with and to them. Too many well-meaning zealots just jump on a plane for a quick 10 day "mission trip" with little or no preparation, with a preset agenda and dollars falling out of their pockets and then wonder why their efforts are fruitless, unappreciated or short-lived, often creating a dependent church or national "mission" that has been taught that compliancy to donor expectations is the key to continued funding and/or existence. The easy answer is to blame the recipients; those poor ignorant "nationals" who ought to be more grateful, cooperative, or ambitious. I am, however, of the opinion that the fault more often lies elsewhere. There is no substitute and no excuse for slipshod preparation for cross-cultural ministry, whether it is for two weeks or twenty years. Reading Jenkins' book should be a small part of that preparation.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Cross-Centred Leadership?

A theme that I am dying to research is the concept of what I am calling "cross-centred leadership", focusing on Paul's teaching on leadership in 2 Corinthians in particular. I developed some on the concept in my book, "In the Shadow of the Cross" but I would very much like to take it further. Leadership is one of my favorite subjects but as I read Paul's words, I am convinced that he has much to teach us about leadership that we, as Christian leaders have not taken to heart. Especially significant, I believe, is his teaching on how leadership has more to do with sacrifice than power and position. This you don't find much either taught or practiced today. Everything seems to be about "vision" and "empowerment" in most leadership books today. Not to minimize these concepts, as I do believe that they are important, but I am not sure that they are proper starting point in developing a philosophy of leadership.

I am beginning to pick up some material on the subject and hope to start studying it in detail within the next few months. I will share some thoughts from time to time on what I am learning. If anyone has any run across some academic writings on the subject, I would be grateful if you could let me know.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Observations Concerning the Persecution of Christians in India

Late last year, I proposed that the persecution story of 2006 was the increasing persecution of Christians in India. It would seem that 2007 will be little better, if the first few weeks of the year are any indication. As you may have noticed, this week's Persecution and Prayer Alert primarily dealt with India. No other country today demands our attention as much, just in the sheer number of incidents of violence against Christians and concerns over anti-conversion legislation in various states. In 2006, the Persecution and Prayer Alert carried 88 stories on India. Already in 2007, we have carried 15 stories. If the trend continues, we will be looking at approximately 125 for the year. We need to uphold our brothers and sisters in India in prayer like never before.

I am very pleased that VOMC staff was able to travel to India late last year and produce a video on the persecution facing Christians there. Also, this month's newsletter features a report from that trip with incredible testimonies of God's faithfulness and the courage of His people. If you are not currently receiving our newsletter, you can read the article online by subscribing at Then every month, you will receive our printed newsletter which I know will be a blessing to you.

Also concerning India, I noticed today the results of a survey taken by the BBC. Christians in India are sometimes branded as unpatriotic by Hindu militants. A survey conducted by the BBC suggests, however, that the country's tiny Christian community is the religious group most proud to be Indian. The BBC survey said Indian Christians were most proud of their national heritage (73 percent), followed by Hindus (71 percent) and Muslims at (60 percent).

I have found this to be true in other countries as well. Eritrean believers, for example, are also accused of being unpatriotic. Eritrean Christians I have met, however, are typically fiercely proud of their country. As a rule, Christians tend to be a country's best and most law-abiding citizens. If persecuting governments could only understand just how much they are hurting themselves by maltreating their Christian citizens.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

When Your Denomination Leaves You Behind

Today I had the sad duty of writing to the head office of the denomination that I grew up in and was ordained with, and officially surrendering my ministerial credentials. This was a decision that I have struggled with for a few years now. The issue came to a head this week, when I received my yearly annual credentialed minister's report form to fill out, along with minister's covenant that I would be required to sign. Amoung the things that the covenant asked for was an affirmation of my agreement with the doctrines and practices of the denomination.

This is the crux of the issue. When I originally received my ministerial credentials over twenty years ago, my denomination held to certain practices and doctrinal beliefs that they have since modified and changed. Perhaps not many but a couple have been rather significant and ones which I disagree with rather strenuously. My positions on these issues were clear in my original doctrinal questionnaire that I was required to defend when I was first credentialed by the denomination. Since my convictions on these issues were synonymous those of the denomination at the time, I was credentialed. Twenty years later, I still hold to these positions. However, these very positions which once were requirements for my ordination are now impediments to my continuing to be ordained. Isn't that ironic? In many ways, I do not feel that I left the denomination as much as that the denomination has left me.

This decision causes my wife and I a great deal of sadness, especially as my wife's family was one of the founding families of the denomination historically. But we both agree that our consciences and convictions cannot be held captive to decisions made by voting delegates who frequently are not especially well informed or even qualified to decide such weighty issues. I have also attended enough of these conventions to know that the push to maintain unity is often stronger then the need and opportunity for honest, fair, and vigorous theological debate.

I will not identify the denomination. Nor will I identify the theological issues that led to my decision. VOMC is a non-denominational mission and it would be inappropriate for me to air these grievances in this forum. Nevertheless, this is to affirm that even though I am the CEO of a non-denominational mission, this does not mean that I do not have strong personal convictions. I refuse, however, to let theological differences influence whom VOMC serves or works with. However, as an individual, I need to be true to my own convictions by refusing to sign covenants that I cannot, in good conscience, affirm. We are all called to this, even (maybe especially) when it may cost something. And such decisions should also be made carefully, prayerfully and with sorrow, not with clenched fists, fiery eyes and harsh words.

Friday, February 02, 2007

New VOMC Video on India Now Available

Those of you who receive our weekly email news service, The Persecution and Prayer Alert, may have noticed that over the past several months the large number of stories dealing with incidents of persecution of Christians in India. The rising tide of persecution in India over the past decade is one of the world's saddest and most ignored tragedies and made even more tragic that it is taking place in the world's largest democracy!

The Voice of the Martyrs in Canada has just released a brand new video entitled Faith Under Fire: India which documents the persecution of Indian Christians as believers share the cost that they and their families have paid for following Christ and showing how VOMC is standing with our brothers and sisters there. I am very proud of this new video and would encourage you to order a copy of the DVD today. Priced at only $10.00 (plus shipping), this video will open your eyes and touch you heart. You can order a copy online starting today. If you would like to view a trailer of the video, you can go to our multimedia website It is not yet online as of this posting but our webmaster tells me that it should be up later today.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Just How Far Should Religious Rights Go?

Just how far should religious rights go? Is it ever justified to restrict religious rights and if so, when?

I ask these questions as I wrestle through the case of a Jehovah's Witness couple in Vancouver who are refusing blood transfusions to three of their four surviving newborns. Two of the original six babies have already died. The issue is one of religious conviction for this couple. Personally, I believe that their convictions are based on a faulty understanding of scripture, but religious liberty is not contingent on proper hermeneutics or restricted only to those who are right.

One might argue (and I am tempted to do so) that one never has the right to endanger the lives of others for the sake of your religious convictions. There is some merit to this argument; the right to life is a basic human right. However, one might suggest then that perhaps a Christian evangelist should remain silent in a religious restricted nation like North Korea or Saudi Arabia because to continue to exercise his ministry could very well endanger the lives of his family and other believers.

So, it is not quite as simple as at first glance, is it?

Does the state have the right to remove children from the care of parents whose beliefs might endanger their children's well-being and even their lives? I am concerned that if we give the state that right in the case of Jehovah's Witnesses (who rarely enjoy public popularity and hence are an easy target), that we might be opening the door to further state intervention as medical science expands and other treatments (perhaps some that evangelical Christians might object to) become available for critical ailments. Suppose that the only cure for childhood leukemia requires the use of stem cells from aborted fetuses? Or suppose that someday using cloned body parts become the normal source for transplanted organs and your child needs a new heart. You refuse. Does the state have the right to take that responsibility from you?

We can point to this couple and say, "Tut, tut." But what if we were in their position? This is not nearly as neat and tidy as we might like to think. Any thoughts, anyone?

Back at the Office Part-time

My doctor would kill me if he knew. But I have now been at the office two days in a row and really enjoying being back in the saddle somewhat. I was told not to expect to be back to work for six months after my transplant. I could never sit around that long. Six weeks is long enough.
Of course, I am pacing myself. One of the nice things about having been gone for a while is that others learn how to do things on their own that they might ordinarily lean on you for. So, my workload seems less now than before my transplant. This has given me more time to think and plan, which I think is an important part of my new responsibilities as VOMC's CEO.

I am so grateful for each of you who have been praying for my recuperation. Your prayers are being answered. I am still battling the occasional virus that comes along, but my doctors are doing an excellent job at finding them before they can really knock me down.

So, remember me in your prayers as I continue to slowly resume my responsibilities here at the mission. I love this ministry. I am so blessed.